Respectful Insolence

Here we go again.

One of the greatest threats to biomedical research, in the U.S. at least, is the truly crappy research funding environment, a situation that hasn’t been this bad for at least 20 years. Labs are closing; investigators are giving up; and fewer of our young best and brightest are interested in a career in biomedical research. However, there are other threats. Although they’re not as big a threat in the US as they are in Europe, animal rights activists have nonetheless managed to intimidate scientists here, harass idealistic young students interested in a career in science in a truly vile manner, and in general do everything they can to make animal research as onerous and difficult as possible. Their tactics range from simple protest to targeting scientists’ children and fetishizing violence, justifying it against those whom they perceive as their enemies, namely scientists. All the while, they use highly dubious scientific and moral arguments to justify their stance, such as claiming that simulations can replace animal research or that animals are such poor predictors of human responses as to be utterly useless (a favorite argument of Ray Greek). Despite the occasional schadenfreude over the occasional animal rights activist receiving his comeuppance, animal rights extremists have tried very hard to shut down animal research by any means they deem necessary.

Last week, they were at it again in Italy:

Activists occupied an animal facility at the University of Milan, Italy, at the weekend, releasing mice and rabbits and mixing up cage labels to confuse experimental protocols. Researchers at the university say that it will take years to recover their work.

Many of the animals at the facility are genetic models for psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

No arrests have been made following the 12-hour drama, which took place on Saturday, although the university says that it will press charges against the protesters. The activists took some of the animals and were told during negotiations that they would be permitted to come back later and take more.

The group, Fermare Green Hill (or Stop Green Hill), in reference to the Green Hill dog-breeding, even posted video, along with a nauseatingly self-righteous justification for their illegal assault on a research university. I don’t understand Italian, but what’s going on in the video is quite clear:

I have no idea why the University would ever promise to allow the protestors to take more of the animals. That would be signing their death warrants. These were laboratory animals, after all. They are in general incapable of surviving in the wild. Many of them require special diets and special facilities. Even if the animal rights thugs tried to take care of them, likely they wouldn’t have the facilities or the know-how to prevent scores of animals from dying. For instance, at around 2:46 in the video there are pictured what obviously are athymic nude mice, an immunosuppressed strain of mice that requires an clean, pathogen-free environment to survive. The video shows a couple of the mice jumping around rather frantically, as though they were being tortured. Anyone who’s ever taken care of nude mice know that they do that not infrequently. There’s nothing abnormal. The behavior means nothing.

So what did the animal rights thugs accomplish? Well, they managed to screw up a whole lot of research and destroy the projects of a number of graduate students:

In addition to mixing up animals and cage labels to ensure that ongoing experiments would be ruined, the activists also took the names of the experimenters from the cage labels, some of which they later published on their Facebook page.

The university is now calculating the damages and deciding what charges it will press, according to Guidobono-Cavalchini.

Michela Matteoli, a neurobiologist who works on autism and other disorders and lost most of her own research in the attack, says that she found some research students crying in the disrupted facility on Monday morning.

“It will take three people at least a year to build up the colonies we had of mouse models of different psychiatric diseases,” she says.

So basically, several graduate students who were working on projects related to autism and other disorders had years’ worth of work destroyed beyond repair. Indeed, it was clear that it was the intent of the thugs to do just that. Why else would they mix up the cage cards so thoroughly, if not to render the animal experiments completely uninterpretable. Then there’s the loss to science. Time has been wasted for no reason. Resources have been squandered by ideological blindness. Potential discoveries in autism, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotropic lateral sclerosis, nicotine addiction, and Prader-Willi syndrome will be delayed or never happen. And students’ careers have been put on hold for however long it takes them to rebuild their animal colonies. Who knows? It’s possible that one or more of them will give up and do something else? Why put themselves at risk?

Which is, of course, exactly what Fermare Green Hill wants.

It also never ceases to amaze me how cowardly animal rights activists are. After all, in the grand scheme of things, the animals used for biomedical research are a tiny fraction of the animals who are used and sometimes killed by humans, far outnumbered by the animals killed in slaughterhouses for our food. Yet animal rights activists obsessively focus on animal research and “vivisection,” even though vivisection is not practiced anymore. Why? Perhaps it’s because they think they can persuade people that they don’t need animal research and because scientists are what they view as a “soft underbelly” (much as animal rights activists view young students and scientists’ children as the “soft underbelly” of biomedical research). On the other hand, convincing people that they don’t need meat is much, much harder. Similarly, because most people don’t understand science, it is easy to make animal research seem like something sinister. It doesn’t matter that animal research is among the most heavily regulated research, with rules governing the welfair and comfort of research animals that have to be complied with.

The only way to stop attacks on scientists is for scientists to stop hunkering down and hoping not to be noticed by animal rights activists. We’ve been touched by animal rights activists at my very own institution, where a prominent researcher who chairs a committee on which I serve has been targeted by Negotiation Is Over. Yes, it’s struck close to home. I’ve spoken to various people who are responsible for maintaining the various vivariums around the campus, and they are definitely worried. Security is being increased, which increases costs and makes doing animal research ever more onerous.

Fortunately, there has been one proverbial silver lining in this sea of clouds in Italy. Actually, two. First, the largest animal rights associations in Italy have shown their hypocrisy by failing to mention anything about this. Too afraid to condemn it or offering tacit approval? My guess is the latter, but either way, their silence is deafening. More importantly, Italian scientists, shocked by this attack on them, have mobilized. On Sunday, about 60 of them held a peaceful rally in Milan under the auspices of Pro-Test Italia (Facebook), a group formed to support biomedical research in December. Even better, Pro-Test Italia plan on holding another rally on May 25.

Finally, top European scientists have issued the Basel Declaration, which you can sign if you want to show your support. The declaration calls for solidarity with the scientists whose research has been ruined by the fanatical ideology of animal rights activists. It also calls on scientists to follow the principles of humane animal research and to communicate the value of animal research, while also calling on government and law enforcement agencies to do more to protect research facilities. For example:

We, the undersigned:

  1. Stress that biomedical research cannot be separated into ‘basic’ and ‘applied’ research; it is rather a continuum stretching from studies of fundamental physiological processes to an understanding of the principles of disease and the development of therapies.
  2. Encourage free and transparent communication to avoid unnecessary duplication of research.
  3. Insist that necessary research involving animals, including non‐human primates, be allowed now and in the future.
  4. Ask that new laws and regulations only be introduced when they are the result of an objective, democratic discourse that is based on facts.
  5. Request that society and lawmakers condemn the acts of radical groups that resort to unlawful means or violence against the research community under the pretense of animal protection.

I signed the scientists section, but you don’t have to be a scientist to sign. I hope that you will too.

Comments

  1. #1 sophia8
    In the dark dark forest
    May 2, 2013

    These activists should be thanking God, or Gaia, or whatever that they are in good health and don’t need to take any life-saving drugs. (I take levothyroxine plus painkillers for arthritis and would give anything to be healthy and fit again.) Somebody should be pointing out to them that they will have one or, more likely, several family members and friends who are alive and functioning thanks to drugs that were developed and tested on animals.
    Maybe this is what researchers should be doing – listing all the life-saving drugs, surgical techniques, anesthetics and vaccines that were developed with animal research. Thus making the point that “YOU know somebody whose life was saved by animal research!”

  2. #2 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    May 2, 2013

    All that research wasted because of a fringe group of idealistic idiots.

    My heart goes out to the graduate students – I couldn’t imagine what I would have done if someone trashed my research animals for my thesis.

  3. #3 Renate
    May 2, 2013

    I’m not sure, but I suppose those ‘animal rights’ activists are vegetarians as well, and problably also very much into natural ‘cures’. It is easier to target research-facilities, then farms. And besides if people think of farm animals, they think of happy cows, pigs and chickens, walking around in green pastures, while research animals are kept in cages and don’t look that happy at all, so it is much easier to picture them as suffering, which makes a huge difference for the public opinion. Besides, no-one keeps farm-animals just as pets, while animals in research facilities, are often not much different than the animals we keep as pets, or look at in the zoo.
    Another strange thing is that around here, a lot of people are against hunting, because it is associated with fun, but they don’t have problems with eating meat. But as soon as someone writes about hunting and preparing game, they start to protest.
    Sometimes I would want those animal-rights activists to offer themselves for research, so to take the place of research-animals, but that might not be a very nice thought.
    By destroying the research they get the opposite of what they want. Put them in a room with people dependant of the search for new medicines. But I suppose they just will say people have to accept they will die.

  4. #4 Eric
    May 2, 2013

    What total bull&:$) propaganda! You probably work for the corporations that are lying about all this.

  5. #5 Tom Holder
    UK
    May 2, 2013

    There are more of these incidents in Italy than we’d like to believe – breeders, pharmaceuticals and universities have all been in the firing line:
    http://speakingofresearch.com/2013/04/24/european-storm-clouds-gather-over-italy/

  6. #6 elburto
    May 2, 2013

    Selfish, unthinking brats. Nobody wants to have to experiment on other animals, but there isn’t an alternative. It’s necessary. As long as the test subjects receive humane treatment, and the utmost possible dignity during their lives then we, higher mammals, are doing the absolute best we can to honour the contribution they make to science and medicine.

    Like Sophia I rely on drugs, lots of them. I know that many of them will have been developed with the help of non-human test subjects, and then trialled in human test subjects. I’m profoundly grateful for every living thing that made sacrifices, knowingly or otherwise, to help me live. They are as important as the scientists who work with them.

    I adore animals. Andrex* adverts have made me tear up out of sheer glee, I’m a supporter of the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and spend hours watching elecam footage and giggling like a little kid at the antics of “the girls”. Severe attacks of pain can be attenuated by typing “Labrador puppies” into the YouTube search field, then getting lost in the maze of recommended links that follow each video. I yearn to have my first dog (since leaving the parental home) in the same way that some women long for babies. However, I’m realistic and mature enough to realise that nobody can truly live their entire life without ever relying on something that causes the pain or death of animals, whether by accident or by design.

    My heart breaks for the researchers and for the animals. The thoughtless “animal rights” muppets are no doubt blissfully ignorant of the fact that they have caused more death, more unnecessary suffering in those poor animals, than the researchers ever would have. The stress alone would have provoked untold pain, especially in non-NT subjects.

    Truly sickening. These warped fools are a blight on the face of the planet. They may have handed out death sentences, not only for test subjects that will die or have to be euthanased as a result of their little “protest” but, for neurologically and immunologically compromised humans who might have benefitted from the ruined research.

    I hope they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    *Non-British RIers, head over to YouTube and search for “Andrex puppies”.

    Not only are the adverts featuring hordes of puppies extremely cute but, over several decades, promotions on Andrex packs have helped raise a substantial amount of money for the Guide Dogs for the Blind program. I hope that tiny factual titbit, and the videos themselves, can raise a smile or two.

  7. #7 Lawrence
    May 2, 2013

    I am reminded of several instances of animal “rescues” that took place in the UK back in the 1990′s – where thousands of Minx were released into the wild by the activists….the results could have been easily anticipated:

    Hundreds were run over by automobiles, others attacked pets and small children, while the majority eventually starved to death.

    Yeah, rational thinking skills are not typified in the animal rights movement.

  8. #8 Calli Arcale
    May 2, 2013

    Tragic. They are so keen to make a statement that they do not really think through what they are doing. By trashing this work, they may expect it to stop, but it won’t. It just means *more* animals will need to be experimented on. We should all insist on proper animal welfare, and the humane treatment of animals used for pets, breeding, food, research, etc. But that’s not what they’re about, since I do not believe these animal rights activists will treat the animals humanely. Releasing them into the wild would not be humane, and a home environment would be deadly to a lot of the genetically modified mice. But they aren’t about humane treatment, are they? No, they’re about making a statement, and who cares what suffering is inflicted in that statement, human or animal? Because the statement is too important for such petty concerns, isn’t it?

    What a shame.

  9. #9 elburto
    May 2, 2013

    Oh yeah LawrenceI remember that only too well.

    The irony is both staggering and incredibly depressing.

    Defending the rights of animals by hurting or killing them, makes about as much sense as those who insist that they’re helping people with chronic pain issues by taking away their (our) access to “addictive drugs”. I know that’s an especially common feature of life for ill/disabled people in the US, thanks to the utterly useless “War on Drugs”.

    In both cases the protesters carry on blithely unaware of the catastrophic effects on the animals (human and non-human alike) who are damaged by their relentlessly idiotic actions and beliefs.

  10. #10 Chris Hickie
    May 2, 2013

    When I was in grad school, these thugs would come and stage their protests and silly die-ins out in front of the entrance to the medical school. A bunch of us would go down to counter protest. Inevitably, some of these idjits protesting the use of animals in research would be wearing leather shoes, which we would make sure to point out.

    What happened in Italy is horrible, even more so that it sounds like the university is not aggressively going after these criminals, which is a sure sign that there are elements of leadership at that university that do not support biomedical research. In an ideal world, all the faculty whose work was ruined would pack up their labs and take their research and funding elsewhere. But I suspect that simply packing up and going elsewhere is not something easily done for PIs or their graduate students.

  11. #11 Paul Browne
    May 2, 2013

    Italy has suffered more than it’s fair share of attacks on science recently (for another worrying example Gloogle “Stamina” and “Vannoni”) but what happened in Milan was shocking even by recent Italian standards.

    For too long the response of the Italian scientific community to the growing threat from animal rights extremism has been weak or non-existent, but I’m increasingly hopeful that this latest outrage has served as a wake-up call that they cannot ignore. The activity of – and increasing support for – Pro-Test Italia since the attack has been very encouraging.

  12. #12 Paul Browne
    May 2, 2013

    Chris Hickie, the University of Milan – after a serious wobble during the attack and in its immediate aftermath – has taken a much stronger line. A week ago the Rector of the University announced that there was no deal with the extremists, that no more animals would be released, and that the University would be pursuing a criminal case against the extremists and also seeking damages. This was announced just after the Nature article was published, but has been reported in the Italian press.

  13. #13 e
    May 2, 2013

    I do wonder, based on the actions of several of the ‘animal rights’ group’s members over the years, how many of the participants really have a deep concern, and for how many it is just the excuse selected to justify destructive or hurtful behaviour? The extreme tactics often have the direct result of increasing harm to the animals, increasing the number of animals involved, increasing the duration of involvement, and leading to injury of painful death of animals that would otherwise have relatively peaceful, well fed, lives.

    The propaganda generally does not seem to match reality, and certainly not what I saw when I was in the lab 20-25 years ago, and standards are higher now than then.

    I’d be curious to see the results of a good study on these ‘activists’ examining sociopathy and untreated psychological issues that might lead to violence. The record leads me to conjecture that the numbers would be significant;y higher than in the general population.

  14. #14 Denice Walter
    May 2, 2013

    “Scientists play G-d with plants, animals and even humans”

    is one of the entries on MIke Adams’ list of ten trends “driving us into social and spiritual crisis” ( Natural News, yesterday):
    others being VR, the war on “normalcy”, the ” censorship and criminalization of knowledge” ( SBM pooh-poohing supplements, colloidal silver, natural medicine), “violent public theater productions” ( a/k/a false flag attacks), media omission of the “real stories”, dumb people having too many children, the end of privacy and the re-writing of history. Right.

    According to our chronicler of the end times, these nightmarish phenomena will lead to “The Suffering”- a period of “starvation, pain, financial catastrophe, extreme social unrest, global infertility, biological freakism, mental insanity and intense suffering”.

    This apocalypse has been initiated by our ” detachment from self, nature, consciousness and the Creator”. Yes, and it’s on its way to your block, right now.

    However, those few who value self, nature, consciousness et al will lead their brothers and sisters out of the darkness to the promised land of a “spiritual renaissance” via “The Consciousness Movement”.. and guess who that is?

    Exactly.
    A similar load of horsesh!t is simultaneously being dumped at PRN with a focus instead on the “ghettoisation” and gang rule of suburbia whilst the wealthy few lord it over everyone else in gated communities as food shortages and massive de-valuation of western currencies commence. ( Get yourself out of those over-populated dens of corruption into the cleanliness and purity of rural self-sufficiency!) The strongest economies of the west will soon be just like Cyprus.

    Note:
    I have resisted the urge to turn on my Revelation ( and/ or Wm Blake) mode of writing… even tho’ Pareidolius likes it.

    -btw- this eerily follows up Griffin’s ” Orac is going to hell” meme of yesterday.
    Could they be on to something?

  15. #15 Mike
    May 2, 2013

    I have a simple suggestion for “Animal Rights Activists” who think animal models are a poor substitute for Human models. One that will save research animals whilst, at the same time, promote research.

    Volunteer as a research subject.

    I know, I know. There are ethical considerations. But. . . .

  16. #16 kruuth
    May 2, 2013

    I say do more research at Georgia Tech and Emory. One of the fringe benefits of living in the south is that we have lots and lots of well armed people walking around, and don’t take kindly to these flower-power animal rights nut jobs. These people are just like any bully, they choose a target that won’t fight back. Trust me, once there’s a headline “Animal rights protest goes wrong” and one of these crazies is plugged intimidating the children or spouse of a researcher this’ll all go away.

  17. #17 jane
    May 2, 2013

    Funny thing is, some of the same people who say that animal research is valuable, informative and essential, and that any limitation on it means going back to the dark ages, are also known to say that results of animal research on the bioactivities of traditional medicines, say, are Worthless and should not even be used to justify doing further research.

  18. #18 Composer99
    http://composer99.blogspot.ca
    May 2, 2013

    Given even agriculture of vegetables (including grains) often involves the slaughter of countless animals (when one considers the scale of modern agriculture), I really don’t see anti-research activists’ point. (*)

    (*) Same abbreviation as animal rights activists, more accurate term.

  19. #19 Pareidolius
    May 2, 2013

    They were probably talking about homeopathy. Why bother animals researching magic water?
    Citations, Jane. You know, who said it and when?

    @DW
    Your Revelatory Restraint is admirable and appropriate, if regrettable.

  20. #20 Bronze Dog
    May 2, 2013

    Funny thing is, some of the same people who say that animal research is valuable, informative and essential, and that any limitation on it means going back to the dark ages, are also known to say that results of animal research on the bioactivities of traditional medicines, say, are Worthless and should not even be used to justify doing further research.

    What’s “tradition” got to do with it? Methinks you’re misunderstanding where we draw lines. Also, what’s with capitalizing “Worthless?”

    A lot of quackery out there has no plausible mechanism and often requires we abandon our understanding of chemistry and physics to believe in the hypothetical mechanism they claim exists. This raises the question of why we should use a noisy biological experiment with whole animals and ethical considerations to detect the effects of a mechanism before we even know said mechanism exists. Before you involve animals, you need to test the mechanism on simpler levels.

  21. #21 elburto
    May 2, 2013

    @Jane – would you like some balsamic reduction or vinaigrette to splash on that word salad?

    Oh, and by “citations” Pareidolius means either direct quotes from the actors in your little fantasy, or scientific literature. Whale.to, PrisonPlanet, NN and other assorted conspiracy sinkholes do not count.

    @Denice – I’m now seeing Mikey’s words scrolling heavenward against a backdrop of flames as Dies Irae* belts out in the background.

    Is Mikey implying he’s the messenger of the Lord? If so, then he may want to pause for a little reflection before ranting about “mental insanity” (there’s another kind? Gastrointestinal or respiratory, maybe?)

    #Dies irae, dies illa,
    Solvet saeclum in favilla,
    Cum resurget Creatura,
    Mikey ex venturus#

    *I’m fond of the version by Libera, a choir of boys. There’s something fabulous about doom and wrath being belted out by kids that look, and sing, like angels.

  22. #22 Denice Walter
    May 2, 2013

    @ Pareidolius:

    Yeah, I burnt myself out over Bealtaine in the Garden of Earthly Delights…and am still recovering, as is the ex.
    I need to go into the wilderness and replenish my spirit via meditation, fasting, deprivation and self-reflection through contemplation of the eternal awesome…

  23. #23 Denice Walter
    May 2, 2013

    @ elburto:

    Another day, another prophet. Seems we got a lot of them these days on the internet.

    I swear these people will say anything to get their audiences to listen and buy stuff.

  24. #24 Calli Arcale
    May 2, 2013

    jane — I’m okay with testing alternative remedies on animals. But the standards have to be the same as they are for more, ah, mainstream animal testing. If something is patently absurd, violates established physics and chemistry, and doesn’t have any effect in vitro, there’s really no point proceeding to in vivo animal testing. Animal testing should never be a scattershot thing where you just throw a bunch of stuff at an animal, see what happens, and try to make sense out of those “results”.

  25. #25 PythagoreanCrank
    May 2, 2013

    There’s a a HUGE contingent of activists focusing on food animals. It’s often a contentious issue within activist circles about where to spend resources but you’ll be glad to know we’re moving forward on all fronts. Convincing a gullible public that they don’t need meat is easy! Vegans do it all the time with their dubious ploys and appeals. Arguing meat on ethical grounds does take courage though, you are right.

  26. #26 Christoph Geisler
    United States
    May 2, 2013

    How about calling them what they are – animal rights terrorists?

    The mirriam-webster definition of terrorism is:
    “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”, where terror in turn is defined as “violent or destructive acts committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands ”

    Start treating them as terrorists, take of the kid gloves, and I have a feeling these “activists” won’t be active for much longer!

  27. #27 Eric
    May 2, 2013

    According to the Gallup poll and estimated 38% of Americans oppose animal research, while only 5% are vegetarians. That can only mean that the vast majority of opponents of animal research are nothing but holier-than-thou hypocrites.

  28. #28 Sam
    United States
    May 2, 2013

    The issue left out of the equation is that of speciesism. If these grad students are trying to find cures for autism, why use mice, when we’re actually concerned about human autism? The answer? Because these tests are cruel, invasive, and often extremely painful. All result in death for autopsy purposes. So, clearly, we wouldn’t subject humans to this. Why, then, is it acceptable to subject mice, or rats to it?

    Would it be okay on dogs? Dolphins? Pigs? Scientists have tried to experiment on all kinds. An ethical, humanistic look at animals (including homo sapiens) makes it very clear that choosing to cause harm to mice and rats in the name of advancing science that only benefits humans is unethical.

    Science, through biology and evolutionary science, dispels any myth that we are above or below other species. We simply exist, and earth continues on without regard to our selfishness, disease, or joy, or sorrow. Because we can’t give preferential treatment to ourselves, we can’t give poor treatment to other animals. This includes testing on them, eating them, using them for entertainment, or breeding them on our own whim.

    Animal rights groups do target animal testing, but they also target animals exploited for all the other reasons that humans choose to abuse them. It’s not a choice as to which front to fight back on: we fight back on all fronts, for the betterment of the animals who are voiceless, and for the betterment of our humanity.

  29. #29 Narad
    May 2, 2013

    Because we can’t give preferential treatment to ourselves, we can’t give poor treatment to other animals.

    But every other animal can?

  30. #30 imr90
    Springfield, MA
    May 2, 2013

    Releasing the research animals into the wild reminds me of the episode of “WKRP” where a Thanksgiving promotion has the station manager pushing turkeys out of a helicopter. “I swear, I thought turkeys could fly!”

  31. #31 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    May 2, 2013

    @Sam

    All result in death for autopsy purposes. So, clearly, we wouldn’t subject humans to this. Why, then, is it acceptable to subject mice, or rats to it?

    There’s also the matter of rapid generational turn-around. You can observe generational (and genetic) effects much more quickly in mice than in humans.

    An ethical, humanistic look at animals (including homo sapiens) makes it very clear that choosing to cause harm to mice and rats in the name of advancing science that only benefits humans is unethical.

    This assumes that one knows, with certainty, that absolutely nothing will come out of the experiments that may benefit non-human animals. There have been a number of things that have been tested in animals with the intent of developing a product to benefit humans, and then in the end ended up benefiting animals rather than humans.

    Because we can’t give preferential treatment to ourselves, we can’t give poor treatment to other animals. This includes testing on them, eating them, using them for entertainment, or breeding them on our own whim.

    Let me extend your argument, which smacks of kingdomism. We are not above or below plants or bacteria. Because we can’t give preferential treatment to ourselves, we can’t give poor treatment to plants or bacteria. This includes testing on them, eating them, using them for entertainment, or breeding them on our own whim.

    So, what are we left with? By the reasoning you used, we cannot ethically exist, so we should all just snuff it.

  32. #32 Calli Arcale
    May 2, 2013

    Christoph: the US Government is a step ahead of you. Several animal “rights” organizations have indeed been designated as terrorist organizations, including the Animal Liberation Front.

    Sam: there are more reasons than just “humans would never agree to it being done on them”. (For one thing, humans *have* been used as test subjects in exactly these sorts of tests.) To some extent, animal testing is like doing scale testing. Sure, it doesn’t tell you everything, but animals are smaller, cheaper to house, easier to control, and mature much faster. If you want to study teratogenecity, for instance, it’s a lot more expedient to use rabbits, which breed prolifically and reach sexual maturity in just a few months, than humans, which breed very slowly and take 15+ years to reach sexual maturity (and seldom start actually having babies for another ten years after that). Generational effects could take half a century or more to study in humans; in mice they take a few years. So there are practical reasons, not just squeamishness.

    And you may not be aware of this, but experiments are not performed willy-nilly on animals. Animal experimentation is subject to ethical review, just as human experimentation is. If pain is expected, analgesics or anesthesia will be expected as well or the ethics board is likely to reject the study out of hand regardless of its merits. Note that ethics boards are not all created equal; the infamous monkey vaccine study cited by antivaxxers as evidence that vaccines cause autism probably should not have passed ethical muster. But they had cronies on the IRB…..

  33. #33 Orac
    May 2, 2013

    Let me extend your argument, which smacks of kingdomism. We are not above or below plants or bacteria. Because we can’t give preferential treatment to ourselves, we can’t give poor treatment to plants or bacteria. This includes testing on them, eating them, using them for entertainment, or breeding them on our own whim.

    So, what are we left with? By the reasoning you used, we cannot ethically exist, so we should all just snuff it.

    Oh, this is beautiful. And so true. Why are animals superior and therefore allowed to use plants for food, clothing, using them to extract medicines, and breeding them on our own whim. Just think of the horror bonsai inflicts!

  34. #34 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    May 2, 2013

    @Calli Arcale

    Minor correction, the ethics board for animal studies is an IACUC. IRBs are for human trials.

  35. #35 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    May 2, 2013

    So, all of us heterotrophs should just kill ourselves—but first I guess we should kill all the other heterotrophs. But that includes all the animals the ARAs are “protecting”! Norman, coordinate! Bzzz……POW!

  36. #36 David R Logan
    May 2, 2013

    @Mike: ironically, your hypothetical is actually the very reason some support Animal Rights in the relevant sense (I personally think it’s OK to use disabled people, babies, etc…viz the humans which some animals are smarter than, more perceptive than, etc.)

    Usually the hypothetical is presented in a way by which recognizing our own preferences (like pain avoidance) allows us to realize they are the same preferences as other sentient beings. But you humorously turned that intuition into an “anyone but me” view. lulz.

  37. #37 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    May 2, 2013

    @The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    Nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

  38. #38 David R Logan
    May 2, 2013

    Last comment I’ll make (obviously I disagree with much of the commentariat…though I am usually a huge fan of your work, Orac).

    Most of the comments revolve around the “unthinking” “idiotic” “irrational” nature of these people. But isn’t that an extremely crappy view, science-wise? The best neuroscience of morality of which I’m aware (Haidt, Bjorkland, Greene, et al.) shows our moral beliefs are not rational but a rationalization of emotions, and that moral beliefs exist to bind us into moral communities, sometimes against rationality.

    If that’s right (or is there published neuroscience that shows only those who read skeptical blogs are rational?) it seems like the best strategy is to be conciliatory, and to try to start a dialogue which allows these people to form different moral communities, etc. That seems like it might accomplish alot more than the somewhat-naive unscientific belief that only a complete moron would disagree with you. Though that is exactly the sort of response Haidt or Greene would predict :)

  39. #39 T.
    May 2, 2013

    I signed, Milan is even my city *sigh*

    What loons.

  40. #40 David R Logan
    May 2, 2013

    Even though we have to take advantage of some living things (plants, bacteria, animals)…which I take as axiomatic…it doesn’t follow that ANY treatment of those things is OK. So the kingdomism retort is monstrously meaningless.

    Gotta go! Hopefully nobody sabatoged my stuff while I was away…

  41. #41 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    May 2, 2013

    @David R Logan

    So the kingdomism retort is monstrously meaningless.

    Illustrates my point that the speciesism retort is also meaningless.

  42. #42 Kemist
    May 2, 2013

    Funny thing is, some of the same people who say that animal research is valuable, informative and essential, and that any limitation on it means going back to the dark ages, are also known to say that results of animal research on the bioactivities of traditional medicines, say, are Worthless and should not even be used to justify doing further research.

    Nope.

    What we say is that animal’s lives shouldn’t be wasted on such crappy “research”.

    That’s very different.

  43. #43 Calli Arcale
    May 2, 2013

    Thanks, Todd, for the terminology correction. In my defense, I’m a software engineer. The board I’m most familiar with is the Change Control Board. ;-)

  44. #44 Raemdonck
    Canada
    May 2, 2013

    Animal research is crucial towards medical progress and affords us a safety net prior to human testing. Yes animals are sacrificed but millions of lives are saved as a result. There’s plenty of links to excellent web sites about animals in research on my blog http://research4drugdiscovery.blogspot.ca/
    as there are links to animal research articles in my posts.

  45. #45 Old Rockin' Dave
    In a high dudgeon...
    May 2, 2013

    I remember full well that at least one recent incident involved the taking of animals that were part of veterinary research, an act of hypocrisy that probably tops them all.
    I suppose I could be a target for these evil idiots – I am alive because I have two heart valves that came out of cows. I could, of course, have opted for mechanical valves, but aside from the noise factor, that entails daily injections of heparin, which is made from – guess what? – the livers of cows and pigs.

  46. #46 Liz
    May 2, 2013

    @ 36 (I personally think it’s OK to use disabled people, babies, etc…viz the humans which some animals are smarter than, more perceptive than, etc.)

    I sincerely think you should reconsider your definition of disabled, unless your are truly implying that there are some animals which are smarter than say, Stephen Hawking; you’re lumping all disabled people into the same category. Unless of course, you are able to offer evidence that there are some animals which are more intelligent than Stephen Hawking?

  47. #47 Old Rockin' Dave
    On the boulevard of broken ankles...
    May 2, 2013

    Just as food for thought, I recall an article by a primatiologist (Irvin de Vore?) about a troop of chimps and a troop of baboons that he observed living together. They shared food, alerted each other to danger, looked after each others young. All the while, the much smarter chimps were stealthily picking off and eating the baboons, one by one.
    Chimps are, of course, our “cousins”. We may not like the way they exploited the baboons, but they were only acting according to their nature.

  48. #48 elburto
    May 2, 2013

    @David Logan – I wish I could sentence you to an eternity of walking barefoot across Lego. Broken pieces of Lego covered with cat excrement.

    Now please, stick the flounce, because you’re about as funny as Hantavirus. Oh, and I’d gladly offer myself up for research if it would help just one person. Sadly, per your views, I’m one of those disabled people who isn’t even worth anything as an experimental test subject. Sorry! I’d apologise for taking up space on the planet, but I think you’re a good deal closer to the top of that queue than any PWD/PWMI I know, myself included.

    So then, after you…

    @Sam – Thanks for reminding us that humans are the only species that use other animals, that take their lives. Thumbs up on that one Professor!

    Oh and Orac – does it break your plexiglass heart when someone pops up in the comments and says words to the effect of:

    ‘I never made it known but I was your biggest fan. I loved your articles, but now I’ve turned against you for picking on terrorists! Wah! I shall never be back… except for a few more comments in this thread. Goodbye! Oh and another th-’

    Does it make your lights flash blue? Poor Orac. We’ll try our best to make up for, what I’m sure will be, the palpably terrible loss of Mr Logan. P’raps Lord Draconis will give us a grant from the RI social fund, so that we can arrange a fun distraction for you.

  49. #49 Pareidolius
    May 2, 2013

    ” . . . it seems like the best strategy is to be conciliatory, and to try to start a dialogue which allows these people to form different moral communities, etc.”

    They have started a different moral community. Nobody is stopping them from not using animals for . . . anything. However, they happen to be physically assaulting another moral community. They do this because they include animals in their own moral community and see animal research as an attack on themselves. Projection and the anthropomorphizing of other animal species writ large. Any rodent worth its salt would happily feast on your immobilized body without interference from a tiny ombudsmouse with a tiny clipboard, telling it that the IRB would frown on its human nibbling activities.

    But we do have ethics and morals. And those ethics and morals are on a wide spectrum influenced by emotion, logic and culture. But in our culture pain is considered and suffering of research animals is to be minimized, as well it should be. Like it or not, we’re not like most of the rest of nature, and we know it. Not better, just way smarter and armed with opposable thumbs. Oh, and saying that disabled people should be discarded and used for research is a nice touch. Very conciliation inducing. Yes, we have drawn a line between our species and others, regardless of ability, but then again, so have you.

  50. #50 JustaTech
    May 2, 2013

    I see that the terrorists were very careful to go in when there wouldn’t be anyone working in the animal facility. Clearly they were too cowardly to go in when the researchers and staff were there.

    I don’t work with animals any more, but if anyone had ever tried to mess with my cage labels, let alone remove my mice, I would have gotten violent. It probably wouldn’t have changed anything, (all 130lbs of me), gotten me hurt and maybe added ammo (“Attacked by scientist!”) to the terrorists, but I doubt I would have been able to stop myself. Even now I am filled with rage at these terrorists, and greif for the researchers. I remember how deeply upset I was when a tech accidently mixed up a cage card and I had to kill a whole cage. I can’t imagine how it would feel if that was done intentionally.

    May the terrorists’ actions be returned unto them one thousand fold.

  51. #51 Steven Best's Gerbil
    Department Of Maniacal Architecture, Cygnus Alpha
    May 2, 2013

    Signed.
    @David R. Logan #38:

    Most of the comments revolve around the “unthinking” “idiotic” “irrational” nature of these people. But isn’t that an extremely crappy view, science-wise?

    I’d suggest that it’s incomplete; how about, “a frenzied lust for power over other human beings through intimidation and terror, coupled with a disturbing appetite for hatred, violence and destruction? And- as has been made abundantly evident- A compulsive behaviour pattern of inflicting neglect and cruelty on animals?”
    Nor is it the “science-wise”(sic) view; it’s likely to be the opinion of any rational adult. Would you care to make a case for this terrorism? To attempt to justify it? For that is exactly what it is.
    PS: Does posting a comment here mean I’m about to get a wall-sized cheque from Big Lizard Pharma, Inc.?

  52. #52 Craig Thomas
    May 2, 2013

    I like bacon. Mmmmm.

  53. #53 Chris Hickie
    May 2, 2013

    This was originally a blonde joke lifted from http://www.wnd.com (http://www.wnd.com/2009/06/100706/). It reads much better as modified:

    One evening an animal rights extremist went to seafood restaurant for dinner. When she saw the tank where they kept the lobsters she asked a waiter, “Why are those creatures in that tank?”
    “They are the lobsters we serve our customers!” answered the waiter.
    “You mean you’re going to kill them?” asked the extremist.
    “Absolutely,” said the waiter.
    The extremist was so upset that she immediately left, drove to a nearby convenience store, purchased some hefty bags and returned to the restaurant to accomplish her newly-hatched covert rescue mission.
    Taking pity on the poor creatures, she waited until the moment was right, and snatched all of the lobsters from the tank, threw them in the bag, and high-tailed it out of the restaurant.
    Later she went to the woods to set the poor animals free.

  54. #54 Denice Walter
    May 2, 2013

    @ Steven Best’s Gerbil:

    Although you write extremely well… for a gerbil, it takes a great deal more than just commenting to acquire a cheque-
    usually you have to prove your allegiance by your willingess to work without pay for a year or two while avoiding being et.
    Trust me.

  55. #55 Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital
    Observation Blister 6, Ring 10
    May 2, 2013

    MESSAGE BEGINS——————-

    Gerbil of Stephen Best,

    You have not received PharmaLucre™, since you have not been properly processed by Miss Flinders. Nobody gets past Miss Flinders. Please fill out form 490-T which is available on our website, log in as “applicant” and today’s password is “m’vaak.” You will then need to pass several simple tests and once you’ve been chipped and screened, you’ll be able to download the Shills and Minions Manual v5.2 and if you are obedient and ruthless, the riches shall flow like the blood of your enemies.

    In closing, we know that there are other marauding species you might serve, and we thank you for your interest in a lifetime of luxurious servitude in the Glaxxon Corpus . . . The Winning Team™.

    Lord Draconis Zeneca, VH7ihL
    Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Grand Vitara of Muskeegon, Interim General Secretary of the Wednesday Afternoon Ladies Fine Arts League

    Glaxxon PhamaCOM Orbital
    1010101111111111100010101001

    ———————MESSAGE ENDS

  56. #56 Narad
    May 2, 2013

    The best neuroscience of morality of which I’m aware (Haidt, Bjorkland, Greene, et al.) shows our moral beliefs are not rational but a rationalization of emotionspareidolia of David Hume in fMRI results

    This seems to be a bit closer to the mark.

  57. #57 Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital
    Peerage Lounge
    May 2, 2013

    MESSAGE BEGINS————-

    Oh, yes Gerbil of Stephen Best, Domina Walter knows only too well of what she speaks . . .

    Remember that party at the Ventraxian Embassy? It was your first outing as a young Minion and I must say that you were stunning. Resplendent in Bvlgari and that gown that Karl had made for you, you looked like a Glaxxon warrior queen, except for the pasty monkey skin business, but really quite impressive for your species. In any case, the Baron de Rothschild was clearly smitten with you, which was bad enough, but so was the Ventraxian Clade Scion.
    It was all fine until cocktails were over and we were heading to the terrace for dinner and you tried to stroke what you assumed was his respiration pouch. Well, by the battleclaw of K’throbey, I haven’t seen such a ruckus in a century. T’was your cool head and skill with a thranzor that saved your life. It was then that knew you were going places, few others would have avoided being eaten that balmy evening in Ibiza. Ah, good times Domina Walter, good times.

    So you see, my good Gerbil, that life in the Corpus is far from dull and not without its hazards. But the rewards. Well, you just have no idea.

    Lord Draconis Zeneca, VH7ihL

    Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Monkey Master of Mars,
    Veteran of the Battle of Cygnus Alpha

    Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital
    00010101111100101

    ———————–MESSAGE ENDS

  58. #58 Composer99
    http://composer99.blogspot.ca
    May 2, 2013

    JustaTech:

    I see that the terrorists were very careful to go in when there wouldn’t be anyone working in the animal facility. Clearly they were too cowardly to go in when the researchers and staff were there.

    Actually, this is one of the few circumstances where the people who undertake such crimes show any consideration for their victims (the human ones, anyway).

    Of course, as you note it also has tactical value. When engaging in a little sabotage, best not to run afoul of the people whose work you’re ruining.

  59. #59 Ymata
    May 3, 2013

    I usually just lurk, but this:

    “It also never ceases to amaze me how cowardly animal rights activists are.”

    And other generalisations convinced me to comment. As a scientist and animal rights activist, the vandals mentioned in the OP do not represent me or the majority of activists. In response to the point that they ought to focus more on meat-eating, we *do*. Vegetarianism is pretty much a basic requirement for involvement in any sort of organised activism precisely because use as meat is why most animals are killed by humans. I think the reason why animal research is targeted is because the scientists are obvious “perpetrators.” It would be a lot more difficult to threaten people who eat meat, seeing as they don’t generally deal with the animals themselves, and comprise the majority of the population.

    I am probably just commenting out of personal offence at being tarred with the same brush as extremist terrorists, but I hope that someone reads this and realises that most animal rights activists are reasonable and mean scientists no harm.

  60. #60 Orac
    May 3, 2013

    I wasn’t referring to vegetarianism. I was referring to doing the same sorts of activism against, for instance, the meat industry, hunters, and fishermen. When was the last time you heard of animal rights activists occupying and shutting down a slaughterhouse compared to the sort of thing they did in Milan. It’s rare compared to attacks on research facilities because research facilities are not nearly as well protected, and scientists are easy prey. As I’ve cited above, the animal rights activists themselves have identified scientists, their families, and young students who want to become biomedical researchers as the “soft underbelly” that they can attack effectively.

  61. #61 JGC
    May 3, 2013

    It would be a lot more difficult to threaten people who eat meat, seeing as they don’t generally deal with the animals themselves, and comprise the majority of the population.

    Thank you for explicitly admitting animal researchers are targeted because they’re considered softer targets for terrorism.

  62. #62 Shay
    May 3, 2013

    It’s a lot more difficult to target slaughterhouses because people who work there have access to edge weapons and don’t mind the sight of blood.

  63. #63 TBruce
    May 3, 2013

    Reminds me of the old observation that ARAs seem to prefer to target ladies in fur coats rather than bikers in leather.

    How about ranchers? Nope, lassos and guns
    Fishermen? Nope, knives, clubs and gaffs.
    Hunters? Nope, guns and dogs.

  64. #64 Leigh Jackson
    May 3, 2013

    Ymata

    I would love to believe that most activists oppose violence and intimidation. Would that there were more like you. The silence of anti-terrorist activists is suspiciously deafening on these occasions.

  65. #65 Tartu85
    May 3, 2013

    Signed the declaration. My only objection is that Cell Biologists are apparently non-existent (Cell and Stem Cell Biologist, not a Neuroscientist)

  66. #66 Janet
    The thawing Tundra
    May 3, 2013

    I’m one of those lucky people who get death threats in the form of voice mail, because the AR threatener is too cowardly to call my office when I might actually answer the phone. I’ve been “escorted” across the street, while attending a science convention, by a young woman in a ninja outfit, too cowardly to show her face. The building I work in got yet another bomb threat last week. Yes, they are cowards, physically and morally.

  67. #67 Ymata
    May 3, 2013

    @JGC,

    “Thank you for explicitly admitting animal researchers are targeted because they’re considered softer targets for terrorism.”

    You’re welcome? I didn’t mean to imply that this justifies it at all: it doesn’t. Sorry if it came off that way.

    @Orac, thanks for the response. There have been a few cases of ARAs breaking into slaughterhouses and large farms and filming, and one or two blockades of slaughterhouses I can think of. But they are much more protected (by both security guards and lawyers), as you say. I mentioned vegetarianism because the majority of ARAs uses boycott as the main tactic: we boycott meat, hunting, fishing etc. and “raise awareness” about them.
    Unfortunately a peaceful boycott doesn’t gain as much attention as vandalism and terrorism, so what most of us do is not really visible, especially to the scientists who are the victims of these attacks. Thanks for the link to the Basel Declaration, I have signed.

    TL;DR terrorists don’t represent most ARAs, and psh, I don’t know why terrorists do the things they do.

  68. #68 Christine (the public servant Christine)
    May 3, 2013

    Janet: if you actually saw her and didn’t die, she was a pretty pathetic ninja.

    I’m truly sorry you have to work like that, and I think you’re brave for continuing to do so.

  69. [...] just complexity? MMR: How parents feel now about avoiding jabs Where has H7N9 bird flu come from? Fighting back against animal rights extremists Six Ways to Separate Lies From [...]

  70. #70 Lee Cee
    USA
    May 5, 2013

    Why are animal rights activists in this entry by the OP labeled as “extremists”?
    Do you mean all ARA?
    Or just the ones described in the Italian events and those ARA engaged in similar activities?
    I’d be interested to see you place such ARA somewhere within a range of “bad to good” animal rights activism using “scientific” and/or “moral” criteria (criteria as least as scientifically valid as that used by the responders describing the ARA as “idiots”, etc).

  71. [...] know which group of animals were which anymore, rendering their work uninterpretable and ruining years of research. Now this. If you think that the “health freedom” movement is limited just to the U.S. [...]

  72. #72 Ren
    May 6, 2013

    As some of the regulars here may know, several of my other jobs are as a medical technologist in clinical laboratories. One of the tests that we perform is the “mouse bioassay” for botulism. We get eight mice, split them into four groups. We then get stool from the suspected case of botulism, extract the liquid from it and make four batches. One batch is injected to one group of mice, straight, with nothing added. Another batch is heated for ten minutes to inactivate any botulism toxin in it then injected to the second group of mice. A third batch is mixed with anti-toxin A to neutralize any A botulism toxin in it, then it also is injected to the third group. Finally, the fourth batch is mixed with anti-toxin B and injected into the fourth group of mice.
    If the person has botulism, the first batch of mice will die within several hours, the second batch survives, and one of either the third or fourth batches will also die. If the person doesn’t have botulism, all mice survive after 24 hours… But they’re still euthanized.
    The death of the mice is horrifying in the abstract because they die of botulism. That is, they’re paralyzed little by little until they suffocate.
    Are there other ways to test for botulism? Yes, but they’re not as sensitive as this test. No fancy lab test has come close yet, but many people are working on it.
    Is it necessary? Absolutely. Those mice give their lives not for science or medicine, but for the patient who is likely paralyzed and on a ventilator in the ICU. Knowing if that person has botulism helps in their treatment, of course, and it prevents the misuse of anti-toxin, which is a precious commodity and can itself have side-effects.
    That’s what I keep in mind when the bioassay is done and when I see those mice die. A human life is being saved, and, although I love animals, a human life will always be worth more than that of a mouse.
    All my opinion, of course.

  73. #73 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    May 6, 2013

    @Ren

    Some folks don’t realize how important test animals are to science, and to things we use in our everyday lives. I’ve worked a bit with mice and inhalation studies for nanoparticles – and yes, there’s been some tests where we had to euthanize all the mice in the chamber within 5 minutes of the test commencing – because we couldn’t leave them in there to suffer.

    It allows us to place limits on human exposure, so that workers using these chemicals don’t die a horrible death from unintentional exposure.

  74. #74 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    May 6, 2013

    Lee Cee – I believe the term “animal rights extremists” was used in the context of people who take actions such as the ones listed in Orac’s post – deliberately ruining research projects, destroying years of someone’s work (and possibly their chances of graduating), threats, stalking, destruction of property, and so on. It’s perfectly possible to be an animal rights activist and to be very passionate about it without being an extremist.

  75. #75 BrewandFerment
    May 7, 2013

    are there even any available medical treatments, medications, devices, etc, that haven’t gone through animal testing? maybe aspirin??

  76. #76 mijnheer
    May 25, 2013

    David Sztybel, “A Living Will Clause for Supporters of Animal
    Experimentation”, Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2006
    http://api.ning.com/files/-SeRlWXXOCcvg-k4TJTPsuZDQr1Zo1dYaYivghUbfUt9aJ4oAsAnbiY2E2yyHSmYvKIT*-kNWDoZfRqe7aBjO7U8NuwDsVbM/20785792.pdf

  77. #77 Sheogorath
    New Sheoth, The Shivering Isles
    June 2, 2013

    I don’t support Autism research because of my firm, evidence based belief that it will lead to neurological genocide (the only ‘cure’ possible), but I signed the declaration anyway because of all the genuinely useful research that got wrecked by these animal ‘rights’ d###heads.

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